This article is applicable to both communities as well as business. That may seem rare but I think it’s more common than we first think. The term onboarding refers to the process by which a new employee is brought “up to speed” on the way a company conducts their business.
This onboarding is often unique to a particular company or community but even with the differences there are a few techniques which can be used everywhere to make the process easier. We use these same principles when hiring new developers at WebSpark. I’m not saying these should be applied everywhere or that it’s the perfect process but I’ve found it works pretty well and is incredibly easy to implement. Here is a 5 step onboarding plan for new team members .
You have to be friendly. The first thing to do is introduce people. Make the new guy/girl feel welcome. You don’t want to cause them to feel as if they are an outsider from the beginning. Immediate inclusion in the group is important. Let them see the atmosphere which should permeate your community and the culture which embodies your team.
Remember how you felt when you were joining a new group for the first time. Remember the things which made you feel most relaxed and most comfortable.
When you’re introducing someone new remember to start small. Don’t immediately throw them into a group chat with two dozen others who are all well-acquainted with each other already. There’s nothing like stepping into a chat and feeling like every sentence is an inside joke between friends and you’re not included.
Start small when introducing someone new. Grab a few team members and hop into a side conversation. Make the new team member feel comfortable and at ease within this smaller circle before introducing them into a group chat.
Make sure the newcomer is aware of the various communication channels used by your company. This is especially important when you’re working in a distributed or remote work environment. If you use a particular chat messenger (we use Slack), if you have a team project management system or other online tools which you use regularly as a team make sure your new team member is aware of them and knows how to use them.
In a community its important to know not only where the general community is talking but also where the different working groups and teams are communicating.
The next thing we do at WebSpark with a new employee is partner them with someone else. Usually this person is someone working on the same project they are working on. By partnering with someone they again feel as if they are part of a team and not left to work on their own. When just beginning on a new job it can be intimidating to feel as though you have no one you can speak with talk to or feel as if you are working side-by-side with on the tasks you have.
Communities are the same way. When a new volunteer joins a working group there should be a person assigned to partner with them. Give them an opportunity to ask questions and learn. Nothing encourages involvement better than the feeling of having a partner in work. You’re not alone. You’re not searching blindly for answers. You have a partner.
Beat a deadline
The last of the initial five step onboarding process is setting easily accomplished deadlines. The sense of accomplishment for seeing a task completed is invigorating and inspiring. Whether its relevant to a particular job or merely something needing to be done the feeling of having successfully navigated the process and finished a job successfully is important. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a community or in a company the process should be the same.
Communities have a great opportunity to encourage this confidence. There is always a list of things to be done and never enough time to do them all. New volunteers can be shown some of these items and with their partner work through them. They’ll feel great getting something done and the community will be strengthened.
The process of onboarding someone to the team is certainly more in-depth and at WebSpark involves a few more steps, there are of course legal and HR issues to be addressed and other things which must be handled with a new hire, but when we look at companies and communities these 5 onboarding tips are applicable to both.
Onboarding is a delicate and vitally important process which if not done correctly will lead to a high turnover rate and ultimately a low success rate among team members. I’ve learned quite a bit over the past decade and these five simple tricks have helped me a great deal both in community and company environments. Hopefully some of these will help you as well.